Key US LNG Terminal Cancels Shipments, Raising Questions on Restart

(Bloomberg) — Freeport LNG has canceled some upcoming shipments, adding to the uncertainty over when the US liquefied natural gas exporter will resume shipments after an explosion last summer.

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At least two cargoes scheduled to load at the Texas terminal at the end of January and in early February have been canceled, according to traders with knowledge of the matter. The facility, shut since June, was scheduled to restart the second half of this month.

Freeport declined to comment on the cancellations.

Speculation over the reopening timeline has driven fierce volatility in natural gas markets. The facility has the capacity to export roughly 2% of US daily gas production. Its seven-month shutdown means that enough gas to feed all US export terminals for roughly a month was made available for domestic use, contributing to a pile up in inventories.

Prices for the commodity, used for industrial power and to heat homes, plummeted by more than 40% in the past month as domestic stockpiles grew ahead of winter and warmer-than-average temperatures reduced demand. The resumption of exports could cause prices to rebound by stemming the flow into local storage.

Since October, 19 tankers have listed Freeport LNG as a destination, but the bulk have since switched destinations to another Gulf Coast terminal, according to Wood Mackenzie Ltd.

A spike Wednesday in power and natural gas flows to the facility to levels not seen since its shutdown, fanned optimism that the operator may be conducting testing activities in preparation of a restart.

Freeport still aims to resume operations in the second half of January, according to spokeswoman Heather Browne.

(Updates with price history in fifth paragraph.)

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